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Henry: JLP agreement with CHEC saved North-South link

Thursday, August 07, 2014    

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FORMER minister of transport and works, Mike Henry, stayed away from Tuesday's official opening of the second leg (Mount Rosser bypass) of the North-South Highway link to highlight the lack of credit given to the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) for making it possible.

"All of this was tied to the economics of the multi-modal plan," Henry told the Jamaica Observer, recalling the transportation programme he promoted during the JLP's 2010/11 administration.

Henry told the Observer that he was disappointed with the treatment of some of the people who had worked with him to initiate the project in 2010/11, and the work they had done. However, he said that he was more disappointed with his own party than the current Government for the failure to highlight their role.

Henry noted that the North-South link was the first investment contract signed with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), and came about as part of his efforts to rescue Highway 2000 which, he said, was in danger of being abandoned due to the US$120-million cost of the first leg, and the US$70 million request from the original contractor — French construction company Bouygues — to pay for a geo-technical study of the Mount Rosser soil.

"They wanted US$70 million to finish the road which we couldn't borrow, we couldn't have, and therefore I had to turn to the Chinese and, in an agreement, asked the Chinese, as an addendum to that agreement, to finish the road where we are now ending," Henry explained.

"Basically, what I am saying is, I can't be angry with the government. I am more angry with my own party. The party should have put forward the position that we would have lost US$200 million, because we had spent US$120 million (already on the North-South link), Bouygues was demanding US$70 million to finish the road; we couldn't borrow any money. So the toll road would never have been finished and would have become a white elephant," he said.

"So, the master stroke that I did was to get the Chinese Development Bank to take over Bouygues' role; redo the geo-technical study; and finish the road as an investment and not as a loan. But, I don't think the party and the Cabinet of the time has not taken its proper credit," Henry stated.

Both Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Minister of Transport, Works and Housing Dr Omar Davies noted Henry's absence on Tuesday.

Henry said that considerable work had to be done by himself, as the minister; Chris Bovell, then chairman of the National Road Operating and Construction Company, which has responsibility for ensuring the implementation of Highway 2000; and Ferris Ziadie, who was the government's main adviser in the initial negotiations with China Harbour Engineering Company; to get the necessary investment funding to complete the project.

He credited Ziadie with working out the economic model with CHEC's regional director, Tang Zhongdong.

Henry confirmed that he was invited to Tuesday's function, as was Bovell and Ziadie, but he was not satisfied that the work that was done to initiate the project had been fully appreciated.

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